In today’s article, we’re going to be looking at the ppl workout.
No, that isn’t an abbreviation for people, it, in fact, stands for push, pull legs.
For most people, the idea of perfection is subjective.
In terms of the perfect physique, whereas some people are happy to be lean and shredded, whereas others would rather be big and bulky, both ideal physiques require you to be carrying around a lot of muscle mass.
Building muscle is not a quick process, nor is it straightforward.
If you want to get big and jacked you need to stop sitting on your behind, dreaming about making those all-elusive gains and actually start working in the gym.
The gains won’t come overnight, they won’t even come after a week, but if you stick with them and really focus on pushing yourself beyond your limits and capabilities, the gains will come and you can transform your body.
The first thing you need to do is find a training routine to follow, which is why we’re looking at the ppl workout today.
Push-pull legs is a tried and tested training protocol, but what exactly is it?
Well, you’re about to find out.
Table Of Contents
Push-pull legs routine is a training routine that is followed by athletes and bodybuilders all over the world.
Whereas there are heaps of training routines out there all requiring you to do complex movements, to get your heart rate to an optimal level, and to wait until the earth is in alignment with the moon before you begin your next set, ppl is much simpler.
It is basically a routine in which, on one day all of the exercises you perform will be pushing/pressing movements, on the next they will all be pulling movements, and on the next you train, well, your legs as you have probably guessed.
The ppl training is great because it allows you to really hit all major muscle groups hard on one day, and then the next work an entirely different set, which is all fresh.
You work the different muscle groups as well as the muscle groups required to assist with the lifts and movements, resulting in greater levels of muscle hypertrophy and increases in strength and power.
The ppl program is great because it allows you to train hard and heavy, without spending an eternity in the gym.
Ideally, most people find that training just 3 days per week is optimal, as it allows them to hit all parts of their anatomy at least once per week.
Now, whereas you can do the ppl routine for 3 days per week, if you feel so inclined to do so, you can opt for 4 days or even 5 days.
4 and 5 days does, of course, mean that some days you’ll perform each workout once or twice, but this will of course even itself out over the coming weeks.
Training 3 days per week is certainly beneficial, but it does mean that you are only hitting one body part per week, so you will really need to step up the intensity, the weight, and the volume if you wish to build muscle.
On the flip side, it’s useful for beginners and for times when you’re short on, well, time.
On push days, you’ll find that you hit the following muscle groups:
On pull days the following muscle groups will be worked:
On leg days, the following muscle groups are trained:
Whereas we don’t have time to list each and every single pushing exercise, what we can do is list some of the most popular pushing movements and exercises which you are likely to encounter if you decide to follow a ppl.
Some of the most common pushing exercises include:
The barbell bench press is a staple lift in many a training routine, and when it comes to pushing days, it is no different.
The flat bench barbell bench press is a great exercise for adding muscle mass to the chest.
As a bonus, your deltoids and triceps also get a great workout.
The incline barbell bench press is ideal for working the upper pecs.
As it is harder to perform, less weight should be used here.
If you suffer from rotator cuff issues, you should also give this exercise a miss.
Whether performed flat, incline, or decline, dumbbell bench presses are great for working the pectoral muscles because the use of dumbbells allows you to get deeper and to get an even better squeeze when doing the exercise.
For working the shoulders, seated dumbbell shoulder presses are a great pushing movement.
Considered one of the most effective compound exercises in existence, the standing barbell military press is perfect for adding mass to the delts, as well as helping to build powerful triceps.
Dumbbell lateral raises are also often included in many push day routines because they’re great for working the anterior deltoids.
When performing this exercise, do not be tempted to sacrifice form for weight.
If you’re rocking and swinging the weight upwards your shoulders won’t be doing the majority of the work and you may as well not bother.
The close grip bench press isn’t designed to target the chest.
Because of your hand placement, the close grip bench press actually isolates the triceps.
Either performed with a rope or a bar, triceps pushdowns are great for really fatiguing the triceps muscle.
It is, therefore, a great finisher exercise to really give your triceps a nice post-workout pump.
Now we’re going to look at some of the most popular back and biceps exercises to perform on pull days. These include:
Pull-ups are, without a doubt, one of the most effective back exercises that you could ever wish to perform.
Pull-ups are great for working the upper, middle, and lower lats.
What’s more, if you adjust your grip and go underhand, you can work your biceps as well.
Bent over rows, either with a barbell or dumbbells, are fantastic for adding mass to the back.
They’re also useful for improving your grip strength.
Every gym has a lat pulldown machine, and as far as back exercises go, this one is ideal.
Experiment with different handles and bars to work different portions of the back.
Shrugs work your traps and upper lats.
They’re a very simple exercise to do and are also great for improving your grip.
Either performed with dumbbells, a barbell, an EX bar, or any other attachment or bar, biceps curls are a must for working the biceps.
You can perform alternate arm curls, double arm curls, hammer curls, and much more.
If you've got a preacher curl machine or a bench, preacher curls are great for giving you impressive biceps peaks.
Now we’re going to list a few of the most common and popular exercises to perform on leg days when performing a ppl training.
No leg training day would be complete without back squats.
Back squats are ideal for training the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.
Lunges are great for hitting the quads and hamstrings.
Best of all is the fact that you can perform lunges with dumbbells, a barbell, or with your own body weight for resistance.
If your gym has a hack squat machine, this is an especially effective machine for getting some real depth to your squats.
Leg curls primarily hit the quadriceps and are very easy to perform.
Hamstring curls target your hamstrings.
You can either perform hamstring curls seated or laying down, depending on which machine you happen to be using.
So, why is the push-pull legs routine set up in this way?
Why can’t you perform a pushing exercise with a pulling exercise like with other training protocols?
Well, there is a reason for this.
On a push day, for example, you will perform exercises that use only ‘prime movers.’
But what is a prime mover?
Well, basically, a prime mover is a muscle group that helps to get the weight from A to B.
In other words, prime movers are all of the muscle groups that are involved in performing that particular exercise.
So, if you do bench press, you work all of the muscles that work together, I.E the chest, the shoulders, and the triceps.
This means that, even though you are focussing on a specific muscle group for a certain exercise, the other muscles you are about to work will still get some work done.
You are basically pre-fatiguing them for when it’s their turn, and later on in the session, finishing them off and completely fatiguing them.
On pull days, when your biceps and back are being worked, all of the pushing muscles that you worked on your previous session, are now allowed a chance to recover because they basically are not involved as they aren’t the prime movers.
Here’s a look at a few key benefits of following a push-pull legs routine, split as part of your training:
One of the main reasons to follow the ppl is the fact that it allows for optimal muscle growth.
You’ll notice that most of the exercises you perform are compound exercises that work several muscle groups (prime movers) at once.
This, in turn, results in greater levels of hypertrophy.
Sometimes when training, it’s best to keep things simple and basic.
Another awesome benefit of the ppl training is the fact that it allows you to keep things simple.
You only perform a few compound exercises, there are no fancy machines or equipment required, you just get your head down and crack on with your training.
If you are busy, or if you just don’t want to spend every waking spare minute in the gym, the ppl workout is perfect.
If time is against you, you can perform just 3 sessions per week, and still build muscle and burn fat.
If you train more than 3 days per week, you can actually have a heavy and light training session.
Switching up your routine now and then is always good.
Reda is an ACE Certified Nutritionist, Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt and bodybuilder with 11 years of experience. He's been published on many influential websites such as lifehack.org, Wealthy Gorilla, Good Men Project and more.